Associate producer: Cliff Reid. Copyright 28 June 1935 by RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Roxy: 26 July 1935. U.S. release: 27 July 1935. Australian release: 4 September 1935. 8 reels. 75 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: A corrupt sheriff and his gang are cut down by an unlikely alliance between the town marshal and a bandit.
NOTES: One of the Ten Best Films of 1935, according to Frank S. Nugent in The New York Times.
PRINCIPAL MIRACLE: Succeeds in recapturing the vigor of Cimarron (1930).
COMMENT: This obvious attempt by RKO to duplicate the success of Cimarron (1930) actually succeeds, despite all the odds against it. The budget is only half for a start (and so is the running time) but it's still very lavishly produced. Secondly, heroine Margot Grahame is certainly no Irene Dunne, but she's a very capable and highly sympathetic player nonetheless. Thirdly, the movie lacks an epic stampede but it still manages some really vigorous action sequences including a knock-out climax which has echoes of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Actor Richard Dix's manly presence is just right for the Wyatt Earp character, while Louis Calhern plays the slimy villain with all the fascination of an utterly vicious yet superficially elegant snake. Preston Foster was always better at the badman-turned-goodie (or vice versa) type of role and is in his element here.
The support players include such dyed-in-the-wool villains as Joe Sawyer and even Marc Lawrence, whilst that perennial soak, Francis Ford, is all nicely dressed up here and hardly recognizable as the well-groomed mayor. Etta McDaniel also gets a chance to shine. Director Vidor stylishly handles the film's large budget and many action scenes with a bold and vigorous hand that will have even the most jaded western fans cheering.
THE DIRECTOR: No relative of America's King Vidor, Charles Vidor was born in Budapest, Hungary, on 27 July 1900. He gained his education at the University of Budapest and the University of Berlin, learning civil engineering and indulging his interest in music, writing and sculpture via a general arts course on the side. He served in the German army during the First World War, was wounded thrice and decorated on four occasions. After the armistice he tried first to use his engineering knowledge to earn a livelihood, then his singing voice. The first landed him only a chance to dig ditches, the second to sing in beer halls.
It was then that he turned to films. Commencing at the UFA studio in Berlin doing odd jobs, he in time graduated to the position of an assistant editor, then a chief editor, and finally an assistant director. After serving in this latter capacity on Fridercus Rex ('21), he left Berlin for New York.